Chinese airlines suspends cargo flights to India
Beijing: The largest cargo flight operator from China to India, the Chinese state-owned Sichuan Airlines, has suspended all cargo flights to India for 15 days because of the surge in Covid-19 cases in the country.
The suspension, which is likely to disrupt frantic efforts by Indian private companies to import medical supplies including oxygen concentrators to fight the pandemic from China, comes despite Beijing’s repeated offers of “support and assistance” to India to fight the pandemic.
The airlines operated 10 flights on six routes to four Indian cities - New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore.
In a late night development, the airlines told the state-run tabloid Global Times that it was “discussing a new plan” to resume cargo services to India.
“We are re-evaluating the original plan of suspending cargo services to India, and actively discussing a new plan to guarantee cargo services to the region,” the company told Global Times.
The company said the reason why it suspended cargo flights to India was the recent sudden change in Covid-19 cases in the country.
A discussion to resume cargo flights was taken after Indian media from Beijing reported the company’s decision to suspend the operations, the Global Times report said.
In a letter to the sales agents on Monday, the Sichuan Chuanhang Logistics Co. Ltd, part of Sichuan Airlines, said the airline has suspended its cargo flights on all six routes -- Xi’an-Delhi, Xi’an-Mumbai, Chengdu-Chennai, Chongqing-Chennai, Chengdu-Bangalore, and Chongqing-Delhi – for 15 days,
The airlines said “…in the face of sudden changes in the epidemic situation (in India), in order to reduce the number of imported cases, it is decided” to suspend the flights.
The airlines added the India route has “always been the core strategic route for Sichuan Airlines” but added that the Indian Covid-19 outbreak had not only caused “…a record number of deaths but also caused a surge in imported cases”.
The Chinese foreign ministry, however, did not offer any comment. “With regard to the operation of airlines, I will refer you to the relevant airlines for more information,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said when asked about the development.
The ministry also did not confirm or deny a tweet by the Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka, which said 800 oxygen concentrators have been airlifted from Hong Kong to Delhi with another 10,000 to be dispatched in the coming week.
“800 Oxygen Concentrators have been airlifted today from #HongKong to #Delhi; 10000 more in a week. #China is keeping in touch with #India for urgent needs. Stay Strong,” the tweet published by the Chinese embassy in Colombo early on Monday said.
When asked to comment on the tweet at the regular ministry briefing, Wang said: “As I said, China is willing to provide necessary support and help to India in its fight against the virus. If India raises specific demands, we will provide help and support to the best of our capability.”
He added: “We have stated that we are ready to help India fight the virus in the first opportunity available. [The] two sides are in communication regarding this... China has been following closely the epidemic situation in India. We show our sincerest sympathies to the worsening situation in India.”
To a question from Blommbergon three other Quad members (the US, Australia, and Japan) not helping the fourth member, India, during this crisis, Wang said countries should work together to fight the virus.
“With regard to some mechanisms that you mentioned, we hope we can also follow this principle and work towards building a community with a shared future and to provide support and help to other countries in their fight (the) virus and show their true responsibilities and obligations.”